The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Eighth Day. The Closing Festival of All.
On Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) the annual reading of the Torah ends and resumes again. For this reason Yom HaShemini is known today also as “Simchat Torah” or “rejoice of Torah.” But is Yom HaShemini a part of the Festival of the Booths, Chag Sukkot, or a separate appointed time of YHVH? This will the subject of this article.
These are the appointed times of Yehovah, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times. (Lev 23:4)
On the eighth day there shall be a set-apart gathering for you, and you shall bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah. It is a closing assembly, you do no servile work.
These are the appointed times of Yehovah which you proclaim as set-apart gatherings, to bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah, an ascending offering and a grain offering, a slaughtering and drink offerings, as commanded for every day – besides the Shabbats of Yehovah, and besides your gifts, and besides all your vows, and besides all your voluntary offerings which you give to Yehovah. On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather in the fruit of the land, observe the Festival of Yehovah for seven days. On the first day is Shabbaton, and on the eighth day Shabbaton. (Lev 23:36-39)
Thus did Mosheh speak of the appointed times of Yehovah to the children of Israel. (Lev 23:44)
In the Rabbinical tradition the Festival of the Booths, Chag Sukkot, is observed for eight days as the eighth day after the seven days is considered part of the whole festival. Thus, this festival is known as “the eight days of Sukkot” after the same manner of adding the fourteenth day of the first month (aka Passover) to the Festival of Matzot (Unleavened Breads) thus becoming “the eight days of Passover.” This man-made tradition cannot be supported by the Tanak and Torah in particular and “the eight days of Passover” and “the eight days of Sukkot” are pure misnomers.
Yom HaShemini, the Eighth Day, as the Torah simply refers to this day, does not belong to the Festival of the Booths, Chag Sukkot, which is only to last seven days from the fifteenth to the twenty-first day of the seventh month (see Lev 23:34), and is distinguished from these seven days by its own and smaller number of offerings, as found in Num_29:35-38.
Yom HaShemini is rather the solemn close of the Creator’s appointed times, and therefore is meant to be celebrated as a closing assembly of Israel, with which the annual cycle comes to conclusion. That is why it is also know as Shemini Atzeret or literally “the closing eighth.”
In other words Yom HaShemini is called atzeret (conclusion) because it is the last closing festival of the year. We derive this from the verse, “On the eighth day (Yom HaShemini) there shall be a set-apart gathering for you, and you shall bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah. It is a closing assembly (atzeret), you do no servile work,” which is the last verse that enumerates the appointed times (moa’dim) of YHVH for the year.
This is stated in the concluding formula in verses 37 and 38, as we read,
These are the appointed times of Yehovah which you proclaim as set-apart gatherings, to bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah, an ascending offering and a grain offering, a slaughtering and drink offerings, as commanded for every day – besides the Shabbats of Yehovah, and besides your gifts, and besides all your vows, and besides all your voluntary offerings which you give to Yehovah. (Lev 23:37-38)
This conclusion is a logical answer to the opening of the appointed times of YHVH in Lev_23:4, in which the [weekly] Shabbats are excepted, not because they do not belong to the other appointed times, on the contrary, but because they are distinguished from them in such a manner to form a solemn heading of them all. We should also notice that the weekly Shabbats have their own heading in verse 2, as we read,
Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘The appointed times of Yehovah, which you are to proclaim as set-apart meetings, My appointed times, are these: (Lev_23:2)
Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Shabbat Shabbaton, a set-apart meeting. You do no work, it is a Shabbat for Yehovah in all your dwellings.’ (Lev_23:3)
And after the [weekly] Shabbats have been such elevated and distinguished by YHVH, the other appointed times are introduced with their own heading in verse 4:
These are the appointed times of Yehovah, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times. (Lev_23:4)
That is why the present author has identified the weekly Shabbats as a separate group, not part of the chiastic structure of the annual appointed times, which otherwise comprises seven. For more insight on the Shabbat of YHVH, the sign between the Sovereign of the universe and His people, the reader may refer to the corresponding articles of the series The Appointed Times of YHVH.
Let us again refer to the chiastic structure of the appointed times, whose intent and design we discussed in the article Introduction to the Appointed Times of YHVH. All these appointed times of YHVH we studied in the preceding articles, but here we will review them in their entirety:
A. Chag HaMatzot (Feast of the Unleavened Breads) (Lev_23:6-8)
B. HaBikkurim (the First-fruits) (Lev_23:9-14)
C. Chag Shavuot (Feast of the Weeks) (Lev_23:15-22)
D. Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpet) (Lev_23:23-25)
C. Yom Kippurim (Day of Atonements) (Lev_23:26-32)
B. Chag Sukkot (Feast of the Booths) (Lev_23:33-44)
A. Yom HaShemini (The Eighth Day) (Lev_23:36-39)
Therefore, we find that there are seventy set-apart days of the Biblical year and they are:
1. fifty-two weekly Shabbats,
2. seven days of the Festival of Unleavened Breads (First-fruits is included)
4. Yom Teruah,
5. Yom Kippurim (the annual Shabbat),
6. seven days of the Festival of the Booths, Chag Sukkot,
7. and Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret).
Three of the appointed times (moa’dim) are called chag, a festival, and they are Chag HaMatsot (the Unleavened Breads), Chag Shavuot (the Weeks), and Chag Sukkot (the Booths). For these festivals all males of Israel are commanded to come to Jerusalem and celebrate before YHVH. The first and the seventh days of Chag HaMatsot, Chag Shavuot, and the first day of Chag Sukkot are days of rest; no servile work is permitted.
Only two of all appointed times are called Shabbat or Shabbat Shabbaton (with the same meaning): the weekly Shabbats and Yom Kippurim (Day of Atonements)—the annual Shabbat. On these Shabbats absolutely no work is permitted. The reason being is that the appointed times of YHVH are given to His people for rest and celebration, and also for honor of the Creator of the universe, not human use.
Thus, we do YHVH’s appointed times and have rest, not out of any outward obligation, but we do them out of love for the Creator. His set-apart convocations and rehearsals are not burden we cannot carry, but gifts given to us to rejoice in and with Him. As Yeshua said to His disciples:
The Shabbat was made for man, and not man for the Shabbat. So the Son of Adam is also Master of the Shabbat. (Mar 2:27-28)
One appointed time is observed within another festival and therefore it is a festival of its own: HaBikkurim (the First-fruits). All commands applied to the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, therefore, also apply to the First-fruits since it is a part of the seven days of celebration. And since all seven days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread are called chag, festival, when all males are commanded to gather in Jerusalem, therefore HaBikkurim (the First-fruits) is also a festival. What is intriguing for HaBikkurim, however, is that nothing is said whether this day is a day of rest. But the opposite is also true: the Torah does not says it is not.
And since this day, HaBikkurim (the First-fruits), is a special, unique day in the Creator’s calendar, we should consider it a festival and a day of rest. But for more insight on this day and why the present author keeps it as a day of rest, and how the First-fruits fits into the whole picture of celebrated days, the reader may refer to the corresponding articles The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Festival of the First-fruits and The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Festival of the First-fruits and the Messiah. And whether the First-fruits of YHVH is a day of rest or not, the signification of this appointed time speaks of itself.
One day of the appointed times cannot be known with certainty when it will begin and according to the chiastic structures of Leviticus 23, seems to be a central point in the calendar. This appointed time is Yom Teruah, the Day of the Trumpets, as seen in Lev_23:24, and is called Shabbaton. Yom Teruah is perhaps the most referred to day in the Scripture and is also known as “the Day of the Lord” when the wrath of Elohim will reach its highest point before Messiah’s coming. It is believed and rightly so that the Messiah will return on the that day with the sound of the seventh trumpet or as the prophet put it, “at the sound of the great trumpet”.
And one appointed time is designated as a closing celebration, a solemn festival, which is also called Shabbaton (Lev_23:39) and this is Yom HaShemini, which simply means the Eighth Day or Shemini Atzeret “the closing eighth.”
The confusion that Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) is a part of Sukkot, probably comes from the way this day appears in the translations. Here is the place to say that the Hebrew Scripture was not written in chapters and verses as we know them today. This division of the Scripture in chapters and verses is a late man-made work. The original Hebrew scripture was written by Mosheh and the prophets on scrolls as a continuous and undivided text. The punctuation marks were unknown in Hebrew and do not appear in the text either.
With that being said, let us read the verses in question concerning the Eighth Day (Shemini Atzeret), as the present author has grouped them to make the point. Nothing else has been changed:
On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot for seven days to Yehovah. On the first day is a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work. For seven days you bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah.
On the eighth day there shall be a set-apart gathering for you, and you shall bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah. It is a closing assembly, you do no servile work. (Lev 23:34 and 36)
Thus read the Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths) lasts seven days and the closing assembly lasts only one day and they appear to be two separate events. The Eighth Day, Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret), is noted after the Festival of Booths, because it follows immediately after the Festival of Sukkot, not because it is a part of it.
Therefore, the notion that the Eighth Day, Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret), is not a separate day but a part of Sukkot comes from how the JPS and KJV translations have divided the text into verses, as we read: Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you. (Lev 23:36 KJV) Notice the punctuation mark “:” in the verse. Thus read, a reader is led to perceive that the Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths) is to last eight days, not seven.
This however we will see below is in opposition of the plain meaning of the text. We will also learn that Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) is not only a separate day, but also a solemn assembly, a closing festival of its own. And this is important to note here: it is a closing festival, not of Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths), but of all appointed times of YHVH of the year; of course, the weekly Shabbats are excluded from the closing, as they are celebrated continuously.
Let us start with 2 Chronicles:
So Solomon held the feast at that time seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entrance of Hamath unto the Brook of Egypt. And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly; for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away unto their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the goodness that the LORD had shown unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel His people. (2Ch 7:8-10 JPS)
The feast which King Shelomoh held seven days and seven days, fourteen days is not the feast of the dedication of the Temple, but, as found in 1Ki_8:2, it is Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths), which fell in the seventh month. This is also confirmed by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 4:1:
The feast of tabernacles happened to fall at the same time, which was celebrated by the Hebrews as a most holy and most eminent feast. So they carried the ark and the tabernacle which Moses had pitched, and all the vessels that were for ministration, to the sacrifices of God, and removed them to the temple.
So, the meaning of 2Ch 7:8-10 is this: that particular year when the first Temple was dedicated, the festival of the seventh month was kept for fourteen days: seven days for the dedication of the Temple, and then seven more days for Chag Sukkot (the Festival the Booths).
The “eighth day” Yom HaShemini, as referred to in 2 Chronicles, is not to be taken as the first day of the Sukkot, but as the Eighth Day, the conclusion, atseret, עֲצֶרֶת, of Chag Sukkot. It is thus correct to read the account in 2 Chronicles judging by the context which states clearly that, And on the eighth day they held a solemn assembly; for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away.
In other words, the dedication of the Temple lasted seven days from the eighth to the fourteenth, Chag Sukkot also lasted seven days from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of the month, with a closing festival on the eighth day, Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret), which is the twenty-second day. And on the twenty-third day the king sent the joyful people away.
Another reference to “the Eighth Day” Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret):
And day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Torah of Elohim. And they performed the festival seven days. And on the eighth day there was an assembly, according to the ordinance. (Neh 8:18)
The reading of the Torah day by day was commanded for the celebration of Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths) during a sabbatical year, as we read in Deu_31:10. The last day of the festival was the seventh, the eighth that followed, was atseret, עֲצֶרֶת, closing or conclusion, hence Shemini Atzeret.
And one more verse where the word atzeret, conclusion, is used to mean a closing assembly, this time in reference to Chag Matzot (the Festival of the Unleavened Bread). We read,
Six days you eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day will be a closing assembly to Yehovah your Elohim – you do no work. (Deu 16:8)
The two clauses in verse 8, six days you eat unleavened bread and on the seventh day will be a closing assembly (atzeret) are not placed here to contrast each other and to mean that the Festival of the Unleavened Bread is to last only six days, because otherwise they will be in contradiction to Deu_16:3, Deu_16:4; Exo_12:18-19; Exo_13:6-7; Lev_23:6; Num_28:17, but to mean that the seventh day is brought into a special prominence as the atzeret, conclusion of the festival, that is to mean a closing assembly or a solemn day.
From the immediate context in these three examples we see that the Hebrew word atzeret is used with the meaning of “a closing assembly” or “a solemn day”.
Therefore, when applied to Yom HaShemini, the word atzeret should also have the meaning of a closing assembly or a solemn day. And rightly so. Yom HaShemini, the eighth day (Shemini Atzeret), from the beginning of Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths), is a day of festival of itself and in the context of Lev 23:36-38 is a closing festive day; it is a day of rest called Shabbaton, as the first day of Sukkot is also called Shabbaton. The seventh day of Chag Sukkot is not called Shabbaton, it is not a festival of its own, and therefore a rest is not commanded.
According to the Rabbinical tradition, on Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) the annual reading of the Torah ends and on the same day it resumes again. This tradition was established by Ezra, for a good reason (Neh 8:18). For this reason Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) is known today in the Jewish tradition as “Simchat Torah” or “rejoice of the Torah” because on that day a new cycle of Torah reading begins, and for the people of Elohim the Torah study is always joyful.
Regardless of the Jewish tradition, according to the Torah, the laws of Chag Sukkot (the Festival of the Booths), such as dwelling in booths and pilgrimage, do not extend to Yom HaShemini; Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) is not part of Sukkot and is a festival of its own, a closing festival of all annual appointed times of YHVH.
Unfortunately, the signification of Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) as a distinctive closing festival, is diminished today in the Rabbinical Judaism. It has been attached to Chag Sukkot as the last day and millions of Jews around the world do not give the proper celebration of this day.
In conclusion but also as a prelude to the following article, we may ask ourselves the question, “Why was Yom HaShemini (Shemini Atzeret) placed by YHVH immediately after the seven days of Sukkot and why was it called simply “the Eight Day?” This we will study in the next article The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Eighth Day and the Messiah.
This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.